When I launched Vandelay Design in 2007, I had a full-time job and I was looking to find some web design clients as a way of making money on the side. Ultimately, I wanted to be able to take my web design work full-time, but in order to do that, I needed clients.
During the first year of my business, social media proved to be invaluable for gaining exposure and getting traffic to this site that was unknown at the time.
Looking back, it’s easy to see that Vandelay Design would have never grown to anything more than a side project without the help of social media.
If you’re looking to find clients for your own freelance design or development services, social media is still one of the best ways for the average person to reach potential clients with very low costs and with a reasonable investment of time.
This article will cover the steps you should take to make social media work for you.
1. Have a Long-Term Approach
Although using social media can be a great way to increase exposure and find clients, it will take time to have significant and consistent success. This article is not to suggest that social media is a fast or easy way to grow a freelance business.
With a consistent effort and a long-term approach, social media can become an integral part of your business.
Now, just because you should have a long-term focus does not mean that you won’t pick up some clients quickly. But for most freelancers, finding one client quickly is not the goal. A better goal is to have a strong presence on social media that produces a constant flow of leads, and it will take some time to get to that point.
The key here is, don’t get discouraged and give up if you don’t see results right away. If you have some patience, you’ll be able to make social media a key aspect of your business.
2. Set Aside Time for Social Networking
In order to have success with social media, you will need to invest some time into the platforms that you’re using.
The biggest challenge here is that social media can be an endless time suck if you’re not careful. While it’s important and necessary to dedicate some time to it, you don’t want to spend all of your time on social media.
My recommendation is to schedule time for social media, and stick to the scheduled time. That ensures that you’re active and consistently working to grow your presence, but it also helps to avoid spending way too much time on it.
The exact amount of time you dedicated to social media can vary, but somewhere around 20-30 minutes per day is a good range as a general rule of thumb. With that amount of time, you’ll be able to be active and contribute, but it’s not so much time that it will prevent you from doing other work.
3. Present a Consistent Image
Most social platforms that you use will allow you to create a profile, upload an image or icon, and possibly create a customized profile page. If you’re using multiple platforms, which is probably the case, it helps to present a consistent image across all the different platforms that you’re using.
This can involve:
- Using the same handle or profile name (if it’s available)
- Using the same image or icon
- Using the same or a similar image for the header of your profile page
- Using the same tagline
Some of the people that you are interacting with will also be present on multiple platforms, so it helps you to be more recognizable if you are using a consistent image.
4. Focus on One Platform
Although it’s a good idea to have profiles at several different social networks, you won’t be able to use them all actively or effectively.
I recommend picking one social network that you want to focus on. Find one that is popular with the people that you want to connect with, and dedicate the majority of your social media time and effort to that one platform.
Rather than having a small impact with several different platforms, focusing your time and efforts gives you the chance to have good success with one platform, and ideally the one that is most important to you.
For example, if you decide that Facebook is the best platform for connecting with potential clients and growing your business, you should be spending the majority of your 20-30 minutes per day growing your Facebook page or connecting in relevant Facebook groups.
5. Contribute to the Community
In order to have success with social networking, you’ll need to contribute something to the community of users. Most people who are looking to market or promote their products, services, or website through social media will jump in and start posting a bunch of links to their site.
While your ultimate goal is to connect with clients and increase revenue for your business, you need to focus on helping others and be a true part of the community.
Many social networks have a delicate balance between users and marketers. The real community of people who use the network are connecting with others and communicate, while marketers are trying to push their products or content but are not interacting in other ways.
Those who have the greatest success with social media will contribute to the community and give as much or more than they receive.
Make an effort to get involved in conversations and actually connect with other users before you try to gain anything.
6. Consider These Two Different Approaches
There are basically two different ways that you can use social media if you’re a freelancer who is looking to find clients:
- Target Clients. Since your goal is to find freelance work, you can use social media to connect with people who may be interested in your services. To have success, you’ll need to identify your ideal client, find out where these people are, and connect with them.
- Connect with Other Designers and Pros. Instead of trying to connect with the people who might be interested in hiring you, you could use social networks to connect with others who may lead you to clients.
When I was growing Vandelay Design, I primarily used social media to connect with other designers and professionals. Those connections then led to more exposure, and more freelance work was a natural result.
Building your professional connections can help with increasing traffic to your website, getting more referrals, and finding opportunities for partnerships.
7. Use a Blog
A blog can be incredibly valuable for promoting your services. You don’t even need to push your services through your blog content in order for it to work. If your blog attracts more people to your website, and the website includes a link to your Services page or some other mention of your services, some of the people who arrive at your site may ultimately wind up hiring you.
I’m a little biased when it comes to blogging, because I know how important it was to the growth of Vandelay Design. Social media and blogging can work very well together, and that was the combination that took this business from a simple little side hustle to a profitable and productive full-time income.
Having a blog on your portfolio site can and should drastically increase the amount of traffic that you get to the site, which can ultimately increase the amount of client work that you get. Blogs are great for traffic from social media and search engines.
Blogs are also great for gaining the trust and confidence of visitors. You can show your expertise, build your reputation, and increase the demand for your services by effectively using a blog.
8. Showcase Your Work
Although the majority of your interaction and activity on social networks should involve connecting and communicating with others, you’ll also want to use these platforms to get more exposure to your work.
You can use your social profiles to showcase your best work, or announce the completion of projects as you go. If you have great work, show it off to your followers. Any time you share something from your portfolio, be sure to link to your Services page or list your contact info so potential clients can get in touch with you about their own projects.
9. Be Approachable
The easier it is for people to get in touch with you, the more success you’ll have with social media. All or your social profiles should have a link to your portfolio website, and your contact information should be super easy to find once someone is on your side. If they want to contact you, don’t make them work hard to do it.
Most social networks will link to one of your email addresses. Many of them will also send you email notifications (on some networks you can control the notification settings) when someone leaves a message for you. Be sure that you are linking your profiles to an email address that you actively monitor so you will see any notifications when someone is trying to reach you. Don’t miss out on valuable opportunities because you don’t see a message.
Another way to make yourself approachable is to simply encourage people to get in touch with you. Let them know that you would be happy to hear from them, and they’ll be more likely to reach out to you about potential projects.
10. Run Specials or Promos
One option for increasing the amount of business you get through social media is to make special offers or run limited-time deals. For example, you could post a promo to your Facebook page about 20% off web design services for projects that are booked this month, or something similar.
Giveaways can also be an effective way to get exposure and land more business. You could run a giveaway where one person will win a free logo design, for example.
There are a number of platforms like KingSumo that make it easy to host and manage giveaways. You can use a giveaway to grow your email list, and then at the end you can offer a discount to everyone who didn’t win.
There are all kinds of options to use promos and giveaways. Just take some time to brainstorm and think about how it would help you to increase exposure to your target audience of potential clients.
11. Consider Paying for Ads
One of the main reasons why social media can be a great place for freelancers to find clients is because it’s free. But most social networks also give you the option to run ads or pay to increase your exposure.
In general, I recommend starting out just by using social networks for free, but after you get some experience, you may want to consider setting aside a small budget for advertising.
In particular, Facebook and Pinterest both offer paid advertising that can be highly profitable. If you want to up your game and get more clients, this can be something worth exploring.
If you do pay for traffic, be sure to start on a small scale while you test the ads to see what works. It’s also extremely important to be able to track the results, so you’ll need to know exactly which leads are contacting you through your ads so you know how effective the ads are.
If you want to use social media to grow your freelance business, the first (and most important) step is to simply get started. You don’t need to be an expert or guru. You’ll learn as you go.
Take some time to think about what platform would be the best fit for you, and get started with the tips that are covered in this article.